Vision Vancouver politicians pen letters with some eerie parallels
Am I being paranoid, or is it possible that the same person wrote letters to the editor on behalf of Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang and Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Niki Sharma?
I know what you’re thinking—it’s a fairly ridiculous assertion when you consider that Jang is a professor of psychiatry at the UBC medical school and Sharma is a lawyer.
Each is obviously bright enough to write their own letter.
Jang, with his PhD in psychology, is also professionally qualified to diagnose whatever mental disorder I may have for even questioning the authorship of the letters.
But I was struck by the similarity of the responses each wrote to the Vancouver Courier in the September 4 edition.
Sharma’s correspondence [the online version doesn't include the same opening line as the print version] was in connection with six community-centre associations raising hell about a new universal-access card and a joint-operating agreement.
It’s worth noting that Jang’s letter included a shot off the top at a leader of the community-centre revolt, Jesse Johl. This occurred even though the Vision councillor was writing about Marpole.
So I decided to conduct my own forensic examination of the letters.
Both opened in the print version with the phrase: “It is disappointing to see…”
Jang’s letter ended this way: “I encourage all Marpole residents to visit Vancouver.ca/marpole to stay up to date on the community plan process.”
Sharma’s letter closed with this sentence: “I encourage all residents of Vancouver to get the facts on the OneCard at www.vancouver.ca/onecard.”
One clue that the same person may have written two letters is sentence lengths. This is something I used to consider when evaluating whether one of my former journalism students had written a paper on behalf of a classmate.
Jang’s letter averaged 19.08 words per sentence; Sharma’s was slightly higher at 20.08 words per sentence.
Sharma only had one short, punchy sentence among the 10 she wrote to bring down the average:
- “This has not changed.”
Jang, on the other hand, had two short punchy sentences in his 12-sentence letter:
- “Those claims are simply untrue.”
- “We need to plan for the growth.”
Taking this difference into consideration, sentence lengths in both letters provide more evidence that they could have been written by the same person.
Jang and Sharma each had one sentence over 30 words. Jang had four sentences between 20 and 30 words, whereas Sharma had six falling in this range, including one at 20 words, and two at 21.
Jang had five sentences between 15 and 17 words. Sharma only had one 15-word sentence and another clocking in at 18 words.
Her letter about the OneCard program involved listing a range of facilities—such as rinks, pools, and fitness centres—so it’s understandable why her sentences might not be quite as short as Jang’s.
Fully half of Jang’s sentence were between 15 and 21 words. Half of Sharma’s sentences were also between 15 and 21 words.
So just because she didn’t write as many sentences between 15 and 17 words doesn’t rule out my hypothesis.
Each letter included only one hyphen. However, as someone who has edited letters to the editor, I can say that it’s possible that these were inserted by Vancouver Courier staff, and not by the authors.
Interestingly, each letter contained only 10 sentences had Jang not included two sentences off the top attacking Johl, who has been affiliated with the rival NPA.
Sharma’s letter didn’t include any partisan shots, unless they were deleted in advance by Vancouver Courier staff.
So why would I bother with something that Vision politicians will likely disparage as minutia?
It’s because the city is hiring a new director of corporate communications.
If city staff are assisting Vision politicians or have provided a template to help them craft letters to the editor, the new boss may want to re-evaluate this.
That’s because it doesn’t look good for Vision Vancouver if two of its politicians write similar-sounding letters to the editor to the same paper in the same week, leaving an editor of a different paper wondering how that occurred.
Of course, it’s possible that some hack at the Vision Vancouver party office or a public-relations person on retainer might have ghost-written the letters.
Jang is a very busy man. In the publish-or-perish world of academia, it’s imperative that his name appear in enough peer-reviewed journals to maintain a suitable level of respect with his colleagues.
And I’m guessing that Sharma’s law firm wants her to ring up as many billable hours as possible. That’s not always easy to do if you’re too busy crafting letters to the editor and dealing with park-board duties.
Maybe they each wrote those letters, in which case I can be accused once again of being a member of the tinfoil-hat crowd.
As the photo above suggests, I can take it.